All parents are concerned about whether their children are hitting developmental milestones, from rolling over and sitting up to teething and walking. They might anxiously monitor height and weight charts and ask their pediatrician about where their child lands in percentiles measured against developmental norms.
One aspect of child development that many people often overlook is oral development, including tooth alignment and jaw development. Some conditions can result in lifelong dental issues if you do not address them early on. Understanding underbite versus overbite in children, what it all means, and how to treat these anomalies is critical to children’s physical development, speech communication, and social development.
Learning the facts and treatment options can help reassure parents that solutions exist. Learn more about underbites and overbites and what to do if your child appears to be developing one of these conditions.
What Is an Underbite and Overbite in Children?
An underbite occurs when the lower teeth and jaw protrude further than the upper teeth and jaw. On the other hand, an overbite is when the upper teeth and jaw extend further than the lower teeth and jaw.
An informal name for an underbite is “bulldog bite” because of its similarity to how certain breeds of bulldogs have lower teeth that close in front of the upper teeth. Kids with overbites are sometimes said to have “buck teeth,” where the upper teeth extend too far over the lower teeth.
Both conditions can affect a child’s speech, eating habits, and self-esteem. For that reason, it is essential to have a dental professional evaluate your child’s teeth and jaw alignment to determine whether treatment is necessary. With early detection and intervention, many children can achieve a healthy, functional bite.
Causes of Underbite and Overbite
An underbite or overbite can cause significant problems as children grow and development. These issues range from interfering with chewing to difficulty speaking and even trouble breathing properly. While genetics plays a significant role in the development of underbites and overbites, some bad habits contribute to these problems as well—one of which is thumb-sucking.
Although thumb-sucking can be a self-soothing behavior, it can cause damage to the alignment of teeth, causing an underbite or overbite. Therefore, it is essential to stop thumb-sucking habits to avoid detrimental effects in the future.
What Happens if an Underbite or Overbite Is Left Untreated?
An underbite or an overbite can cause serious issues beyond a crooked smile. If left untreated, these problems can disrupt how the jaw and teeth fit together and lead to other oral health problems. Untreated underbites and overbites can cause jaw pain, tooth decay from enamel wear, speech development issues, and gum disease.
It is not just your child’s oral health that will be affected, either. In severe cases, untreated malocclusions (misalignment of the teeth) can cause difficulty chewing and breathing properly. That is why it is important to address orthodontic issues promptly and seek treatment from a specialist to ensure good oral and overall health.
Treatment Options for Underbites and Overbites in Children
A variety of options treatment options can help correct underbites and overbites. It is important to understand that treatments for these conditions, particularly for underbites, are more successful with early intervention while the mouth and jaw are still growing and developing.
One of the most common causes of these types of dental problems is thumb-sucking, which can put pressure on the teeth and cause them to shift out of place over time. To address the root cause of the issue, parents should take steps to help their children break the habit of thumb-sucking.
Tongue thrusting is another issue where the tongue pushes against the teeth excessively during swallowing. This is normal during infancy to facilitate breast and bottle feeding, but if it continues into toddlerhood, it can cause malocclusion. Thumb-sucking contributes to tongue thrust, another good reason to intervene and try to break the habit.
Orthodontic treatments like braces, headgear, and palate expanders can help correct teeth and jaw alignment. The earlier you address the issue, the more successful the treatment will likely be, so it is important to consult with your child’s orthodontist as soon as you notice any signs of these conditions. With the right treatment plan and ongoing care, your child can achieve a healthy, properly aligned smile that will serve them well for years to come.
Questions To Ask Your Dentist About Treating Your Child’s Underbite or Overbite
Questions to consider asking your pediatric dentist and orthodontist include the suspected causes of the condition, treatment options, and the long-term effects of not treating it. Understanding the underlying causes can help you make informed decisions about treatment.
There may be several options depending on the severity of the bite, including braces, headgear, or in severe cases, even surgery. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of each option before choosing treatments. Most importantly, understanding that doing nothing could lead to more serious dental problems down the line should motivate parents to act as soon as they notice peculiarities in their child’s bite.
Understanding underbites versus overbites in children can help parents notice a problem and address it early on before it becomes severe and more difficult to treat. It is important to identify the causes of these conditions so that they can be prevented or treated appropriately.
Failing to address an underbite or overbite can lead to serious health complications, including jaw pain, irregular facial growth, difficulty speaking and eating, and a misaligned bite. Fortunately, there are a variety of effective treatments available for both underbites and overbites in children. Good habits like consistent dental hygiene routines and not allowing your child to continue thumb-sucking can also help prevent these issues from developing in the first place.
If you have any questions about treating your child’s underbite or overbite, make sure to ask your pediatric dentist. Taking steps now to stop thumb-sucking habits or addressing potential malocclusion issues early are key steps toward ensuring that your child has healthy teeth for life.